- Issue #85 – The Ballad of Bad Lass
- Issue #86 – Those Not Forgotten
- Issue #87 – Descendants… In Space
- Issue #88 – Tome of Battle
- Issue #89 – All That Glitters
- Issue #90 – Just Us Sidekicks
- Issue #91 – Rock and Roll Lifestyle
- Descendants Special #8 – The Heart of Rock ‘N Roll
- Issue #92 – Homage
- Issue #93 – Day of Recovery
- Issue #94 – The Knight, The Witch and the Gadgeteer (FaerieQuest Part 1)
- Issue #95 – Into The Woods (FaerieQuest Part 2)
The Knight, The Witch, and the Gadgeteer (Part 5)
Forsworn House was built like a fortress because that was its original purpose: to protect the leyline from enemies that never materialized in Alesworth’s time. The outer wall encircled a small village’s worth of long un-used outbuildings: a pair of granaries whose domed tops and much of their round stone structures had collapsed, a smithy with an attached house for the smith and his family, rows of chicken coops, a weather-worn tannery, two wells and a low, stone guard’s barracks just to name a few.
Wayne Micheals hadn’t owned the property long enough to think much about what to do with them, so they lay dormant and in dangerous disrepair while the castle keep received all the attention.
And as Dana discovered shortly after floating herself over the outer walls—it was still getting that attention.
“Are we sure we’ve got the right place?” She was crouched in the shadow of the smithy, having set herself down the moment she saw signs of human activity—a lot of human activity.
What likely once served as a plaza or parade ground in front of the keep-slash-house had been turned into a makeshift parking lot for the various vans parked out front. Plumbers, electricians, and a mason were in evidence, alongside a locksmith and an IT company among others with esoteric company names she could only guess at.
They weren’t idle either. Dana potted a man hauling cable from the IT van and the rear of one of the plumbing vans had its rear doors open.
Indeed. Replied Gabraed, who had no point of reference from which to notice anything amiss.
“Who the hell has plumbers working on their place past one in the morning?” Dana asked, even though she knew the greymalkin neither knew nor cared. She groaned and sat back against the wooden wall of the smithy. The structure groaned at the added weight from her armor, but didn’t fall apart much to her relief.
“Okay, we need to change plans.”
Why? The artifacts you seek are here.
“Yes, but I was going to sneak in and take them while the people here were asleep. I was maybe going to have to sneak around by floating to keep silent and get past one or two guys. But I can’t just stroll into a place crawling with workers. Someone is going to notice a girl in full steel plate among the burly tradesmen, got it?”
The kill them.
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You know, I put up with this when you were talking about those daoine guys because, you know, they’re like alien monsters or something. Even then it wasn’t like I was gonna do it. These are people, Kitty. Like real people. Not even evil people; they’re regular Joes doing a job.”
Gabraed made a displeased sound somewhere between a yowl and a snort. Then strike them on the head until the fall unconscious.
“You know if you do that wrong, it still kills them, right?”
Not to daoine or goblins or kitsune, or dullahan…
Dana ground her teeth. “I get it, all the faeries are so much more awesome than humans. This isn’t helping.”
I offered my perfectly sage and sound advice. IF you wish to seek another path, then you will have to find it yourself. The Errolking chose you for your powers, but you will need skills and guile as well.
Knowing she wouldn’t get anything more useful out of the graymalkin, Dana huffed and took another peek out at the full parking lot. She wished she knew what ‘guile’ meant, but there wasn’t time to grab a dictionary. She had to find a way inside.
Her vantage point didn’t offer a lot more intel than the litany of vehicles working ’round the clock to fix up the house. For what, she wondered. Someone just moving into a place wouldn’t be in such a crazy, all-fired hurry that they’d pay the no-doubt insane rates those workers would charge for working past five, let alone midnight.
More information was needed, so she looked over the names on the vans again, ignoring the mundane ones.
There were a number with completely incomprehensible names. Indamix Acoustics, RaveIt, PPC, Inc, and something whose name was easily understood, but still made no sense: Dangerous Animals Overnight.com.
At a loss on her own, she did what anyone else would: she turned to the internet. It took a while for her to find her palmtop in her bag and even longer for the device to find a connection (which neatly explained why the IT company was there), but she was soon on Quintilian, looking up company names.
The first thing she discovered was that her eyesight wasn’t all that great at a long distance at night through an armored visor.
‘Did you mean In-Da-Mix Acoustics?’
That made so much more sense. She tapped ‘yes’.
In-Da-Mix was a company out of Cambridge that sold sound systems and room remodeling to create (according to the ad copy on their website) a room with the perfect acoustic experience.
That didn’t tell her anything by itself aside from the fact that the owner of the place was an audiophile with more money than sense, so she checked the next name on the list; another one that she apparently missed the dashes in.
‘Did you mean Rave-It?’
Rave-It, formerly Rent-A-Rave, was a company that did lighting and effects for parties. It turned out that PPC, aka Pink’s Party Cannon, was a decorating firm, which made the image of what was going on come together in Dana’s head. Someone was throwing a party and paying workers around the clock to get the ancient castle in shape for it.
“Hmm.” The gears were starting to turn in Dana’s head. A party decorated by ‘Rave-it and Pink’s Party Cannon was not going to be a highbrow event. There was a chance she could sneak in and blend with the other guests whenever the party started.
Unfortunately, that meant the mission just became an overnight trip.
“Okay, Kitty. You want me to take the initiative? Fine. We’re camping out tonight. This place doesn’t look like people come around her often, so we can spent the night in one of the places that doesn’t look like it’s about to fall down.”
Gabraed rumbled a small growl in his chest. What will that accomplish?
“As it turns out, we’ve got a distraction coming up, but it’s not going to be tonight.” Peering around, Dana spotted the house adjoining the smithy, which only looked rundown, not on the verge of collapse. Keeping low, she started creeping toward it.
And this distraction is?
Dana smirked. “A party. Do they have those where you’re from?” as she moved, curiosity got the better of her and she looked up DangerousAnimalsOvernight.com. The results were surprising in the fact that they actually promised what the title suggested. “And also maybe a… lion or a tiger, or… a cloned cave bear? Oh my god, how is that legal and how do I sign up for it?”
Deadly beasts integrated into a celebration? Gabraed mused, That is indeed the way of my people.
“And again, I don’t know if you’re joking or not.”
“I am so ashamed right now.” Warrick groused as he gripped the steering wheel of his rental car late that afternoon.
“Oh come on,” said the Cyn from the back seat. She was currently shifted into the form of a six-foot four dark-skinned Arabic man with a thick mustache that dropped at the sides until it hung down below her chin, “Muy Macho is awesome! I would be honored to be him.”
Through the magic Lisa provided, Warrick’s skin was an inorganic shade of orange and stretched over bulging muscles and a square chin that someone could slice cheese on. His hair was stark white and gelled into peaks that stood straight up all over his head except for the black pencil mustache and goatee.
“You know he’s not actually Hispanic right?” Warrick asked, “He pretends to be and spouts totally fake Spanish in his promos because somehow that’s his shtick. The guy is a hate crime.”
Beside him, in the front passenger seat, Tink was frowning over her mystic makeover as well. While Warrick as Wilburforce ‘Muy Macho’ Haine and Cyn was Burt ‘Stone Crush’ Coates, she didn’t have a character to play and was instead glamoured to look the part of the ISO standard bleach-blonde wrestling groupie with a red tube top and fishnet stockings on under short shorts that left her feeling very self conscious despite it not being her body that was being shown off.
Nonetheless,s he reached over and patted Warrick’s hand. “Sorry, but Muy Macho was the only wrestler we could find who wasn’t coming according to his Quintessence account and… er… matched.” In her time with him, Warrick never seemed all that bothered by his short stature, but she never liked bringing it up.
“I know. But once this mission is over, we are never mentioning this again.”
They were driving up the road toward Forsworn House in the hunter green SUV. They looked like they were alone, but they were all well-aware of their back-up: Darkness cloaked in his invisibility holding on to the roof rack and Vamanos dashing through the woods that ran right up to the wall surrounding Forsworn House with Ephemeral in tow.
Codex had supplied button cams to place on the SUV at strategic points so that, with the help of some software, would generate a partial visual map of the area Vamanos could use on her entry.
There didn’t seem to be any security stronger than a single pair of men who merely waved them through the main gate, apparently owing to the fact that anyone who knew where to find the place was probably invited. Or had a great hacker on their side like The Descendants did. The SUV rolled through the gate and left the dirt road they’d been riding on for a freshly paved one leading straight past the depressingly dilapidated outbuildings and up to the main building.
Cyn gave a low whistle. “Now this is a bad guy lair. No crappy factory floors, no apartments, just a freaking sweet giant castle on a cliff. War, if you don’t dual the crazy knight lady with a sword here, I will be so disappointed in you, I don’t think we’ll ever be friends again.”
“Pretty sure the point of a stealth mission isn’t doing glorious battle on the parapets, Cyn. No matter how worth it that would make this whole mess,” said Warrick.
As they pulled in beside several rows of swank sports cars and huge trucks, Tink muttered the mnemonic Lisa taught her to activate the voice portion of the glamor. Her throat tightened for a moment as the magic took hold and the next time she opened her mouth, her normal voice was replaced by something shrill with a fake, stereotypical Jersey accent.
“Okay, guys, let’s get in character.”
“Ah jeez…” Warrick spoke his mnemonic and his affected Brooklyn accent was replaced by Muy Macho’s natural Chicago one. He and Lisa had had a conversation that went on too long for their comfort over whether Muy Macho kept up the kayfabe of his character at private parties. Then it took almost two hours to find video of him speaking in his previous persona of X-cessive Force to get his voice right for the glamor. “Alright. We ready?”
“Let’s hit it.” Cyn dropped her voice low in imitation of stone Crush. If anyone asked, ‘he’ was just getting over a cold.
The trio exited the car and were greeted by pumping techno coming from inside the house along with shouts, laughter and general chatter. Warrick knocked on the door and got no answer. After three more tries, he just tried the knob and found it unlocked.
The grand entrance hall of Forsworn House; a great rectangular chamber with a vaulted ceiling, terminating in a twin set of stairs tot he upper levels, had been transformed into something very much like a nightclub. A dance floor, poorly lit except in flashes from strobe lights dominated the floor while women and men in tight outfits outlined with glowing stripes that accented chests, butts and crotches danced on raised platforms held aloft by freelev systems whose undersides occasionally belched sweet-smelling fog.
There was a bar set up in the space between the two staircases, and in the galleries above, there were more people dancing or lounging at tables surrounded by plush chairs. Occasionally booming explosions would sound from the periphery of the hall, and things like old timey human cannonball cannons launched holographic salvos of bizarre items from teddy bears to laughing heads, to technicolor bats.
“Did I just start tripping on acid?” Warrick asked.
“Oh, if only we weren’t here for work…” they heard Darkness say wistfully before she took to the air, still invisible.
Cyn grunted in amusement. “Old people and their fun.”
“Let’s just split up and get a map for Vamanos to figure out where to come in.” Warrick said, trying to make sense of the spectacle around him. He wasn’t a club guy. His favorite parties involved a small group of friends watching something surrounded by junk food. Every step of the way, he liked ‘his’ mission less and less.
“Hey! Muuuuy Ma-chooo!” A beefy hand caught Warrick’s arm and span him around until he found himself standing face-to-face with an incredibly inebriated Wayne Micheals. ‘Oh shit’ didn’t seem to be a strong enough expletive for it.
Trying not to choke on his own panic, Warrick raised his free hand. “Hey, Micheals. How you been, bro?” The extent to which Warrick knew anything about Muy Macho was that was his racist shtick and his propensity to use the word ‘bro’ not only as a term for his friends, but as an add-on to normal words for no rhyme or reason both in-character and out. So that’s what he clung to as Wayne continued to chat him up.
“I thought you weren’t’ gonna make it cause you had that… that…” he tried to snap his fingers, but it was clear his motor skills had left the building about half an hour ago.
“Bro-thing?” Warrick supplied.
“Yeah, in San Fran. You get out of it?”
Warrick forced a boisterous laugh. “’course I did, bro! You think I’d miss out on one of your bro-dacious parties? But seriously, bro: what’s up with the new place? All the way out in the middle of nowhere?” If he was going to have to interact with Wayne, he decided to get some intel along the way.
Wayne snorted unhappily. “Man, you don’t want to hear all the shit I’ve been through. I just wanna beat the shit outta something just thinking about it.”
It took an effort to keep from raising an eyebrow. There must have been some truth in the Manikin’s words after all. Wayne had bought the house in Newton’s Cove against his volition. Which showed yeah another crack in Morganna’s knighthood’s cohesion. He wondered if he could use that.
“But anyway,” Wayne said, waving off his bad mood. “We got the baddest DJ in the northeast, we got fine bitches, and we got your favorite drink my brotha: shots and lots of ’em! Come on!” The iron grip on Warrick’s arm brooked no argument as he was dragged off toward the bar.
He looked to Cyn who was trying not to laugh, and Tink who looked torn between following him or continuing the mission. A shake of his head told her that there was no reason both of them get sidelined. Already he was thinking of ways to avoid getting blind stinking drunk.
But just as they reached the bar, his metal sense touched something he wasn’t expecting: titanium in an alloy he’d created himself. For a special order. The special order. The one that paid for most of his trip to LA. It was somewhere in Morganna’s castle.